Hines seeks role in reforming Milwaukee child care

The following is a statement released by Common Council president Willie J.. Hines, Jr.

12-19-09-willie-hinesFor several years, the State of Wisconsin and Milwaukee County have overseen and administered Early Childhood Education (ECE) in our city. This includes licensed group child care centers, licensed family child care centers and certified family daycares. The City of Milwaukee, as a government entity, has had essentially no role or responsibility in ensuring that regulated childcare settings are of the highest quality – not to mention safe – for our constituents and their children.

It is my absolute opinion that the situation must change. The City of Milwaukee cannot afford to sit on the sidelines while there is extensive corruption, including drug dealing operations fronting as child care centers, as a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel investigation illustrated over the weekend. We must be at the table as State and County leaders seek solutions, sharing our expertise to make the program as responsible as possible.

In the past, the Common Council has passed some restrictions for child care centers, such as requiring that they not be within 300 feet of establishments that sell alcohol. In addition, aldermen have regularly opposed daycares in residential neighborhoods or on commercial corridors based on zoning hearings at the Board of Zoning Appeals. However, it is my belief that the City of Milwaukee must do more to reform this system.

Today, I am announcing my intention to introduce legislation at the next full meeting of the Common Council that will work toward giving the City of Milwaukee a much stronger voice in child care regulations.

I have met with Reggie Bicha, secretary for the Wisconsin Department of Children and Families, as well as his staff. He and his team have my full support in their efforts to root out corruption and mismanagement that exist among some licensees in the current system. It is my belief that Milwaukee must step up to the plate by strengthening those new reforms, as well as implementing additional ones at the local level.

Milwaukee is unlike any other city in the state, in terms of size, demographics and economic opportunities, and so our challenges cannot easily be addressed by replicating measures that are used in other municipalities. Nevertheless, we must be open to learning from our counterparts in other areas, including the accreditation process imposed by the City of Madison.

I am open to doing whatever it takes to make sure Milwaukee can offer safe, nurturing and affordable child care to our constituents. I believe that my colleagues on the Common Council share that sentiment, even though we may differ on the best strategy to arrive at that goal. All of us want high-quality, safe environments for our children to grow and learn in their most formative years. The City of Milwaukee has an obligation to work alongside the State and County to guarantee that outcome.